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Sihanoukville flight claims

Two airlines plan to begin regular flights between the tourist towns of Siem Reap and Sihanoukville this year, officials said yesterday.

Cambodia Angkor Air aims to begin its regular flights by December, though may delay into 2012 if necessary, said Office of the Council of Ministers Secretary of State Tek Rethsamrach yesterday.

“We want to make sure that if we begin flights, they will continue forever. We don’t want flights to last two or three weeks and then stop – that’s very bad,” he said.

Although tourism insiders had made a push for regularly scheduled flights to Sihanoukville, the plans of CAA, the national carrier, to fly to the beach resort had been delayed since its launch in 2009.

“You know why we delayed flights to Sihanoukville, it’s because the market was not yet confident enough after the global financial crisis,” said Tek Rethsamrach.

This year showed a marked increase in tourists arriving Cambodia, and the time was right to commence flights, he claimed.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation Undersecretary of State Soy Sokhan said that Tonle Sap Airlines also intended to begin routes from both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Sihanoukville later this year.

“We will have two airlines flying new routes to Sihanoukville by the end of the year,” he said. Soy Sokhan is also in charge of government oversight of CAA, which is believed to be 51 percent owned by the Cambodian government, with the remainder held by Vietnam Airlines.

CAA plans to use two ATR 72-500 planes to fly the route from Siem Reap to the coastal town he said. It also intends to buy Airbus 320 and 321 aircraft later this year to expand to more cities
internationally, particularly in South Korea.

Furthermore, government officials are discussing beginning flights to Phu Quoc island in Vietnam, he said.

However, neither CAA nor Tonle Sap has yet released a flight schedule, and are still studying the market, he said.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon yesterday welcomed the possibility of new routes to Sihanoukville.

“It is very important to have flights connecting Siem Reap with the coastal area. We are happy in supporting them,” he said, adding it would boost the tourism industry.

The Post could not reach officials from Tonle Sap airlines late yesterday.

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